Yesterday, I stood on a busy street holding a sign.
It was Respect Life Sunday and my town has an annual Life Chain that stretches alongside the busiest road in the state. While I don’t participate absolutely every year, I try to go when I am able. Nothing about the situation was new.
Except my response.
In college, I spent many hours in front of an abortion clinic an hour from my school. The experiences there shaped my heart and the way I approach being pro-life. Some of the most difficult moments, the ones of heart-wrenching, soul-crushing sorrow, were on Highland Avenue. An intersection in town where it always felt a bit chillier than anywhere else. When I think about hardcore pro-life activism, I place myself back on the frontlines, where life and death literally hung in the balance.
On that busy street yesterday, it was not like my experiences in college. The sun came out and warmed my face. As a whole, the reactions from motorists were favorable. Many people waved, honked their horns, gave us a thumbs up, or even yelled a kind greeting to us. Children’s faces were pressed against windows as they watched the long line of people hold signs on the sidewalk. Overall, the experience was pleasant.
Two things stand out in my mind. Interestingly, the emotions are interwoven, although they seem to be contradictory. One is the image of a couple of police cars driving past our lines. An officer in one vehicle waved at us and the other gave us a thumbs up. For some reason, this moved my heart. Men in uniform, charged with protecting citizens and enforcing laws, were giving us a gesture of support. My heart filled with gratitude. In addition to the officers, the predominantly positive response from the passers-by was a cause for rejoicing.
Yet intermingled with this thankfulness was the realization that abortion still happens. Lives are still taken, hearts are still wounded, and skills of healing are still misused for destruction. Surrounded by young and old alike, I was grateful for the pro-life movement. Years ago I would have mourned for the children only. Yesterday, I was mourning for mothers and fathers, friends and family, doctors and nurses, everyone impacted by abortion in any way.
A woman drove by and yelled at us that everyone has the right to choose.
Abortion isn’t a women’s issue, it is a human issue. I wanted to have a conversation with her and to see how much of everyone “everyone” included.
Does the father have a right?
Does the child?
Do the child’s siblings?
Do the grandparents?
Or is it only the woman?
Does only the woman have a right to choose what happens to the body of her baby?
Standing there, sign in hand, I wondered how it was possible for my heart to experience such sorrow and such gratitude at the same time. How long, O Lord? I prayed. And then I followed it up with, Thank you, Jesus. My desires were torn between wanting to sit on the ground to sob or longing to sing with joy.
In some ways, this sorrow and joy is the tension of the human life. Each of us has experiences which should bring about genuine sorrow in our lives. Similarly, each person has experiences that bring intense joy. Our sinfulness and our growth in virtue create this paradoxical battle within ourselves.
How long, O Lord, until we become the saints You desire us to be? Thank You, Jesus, for the ways you are continuing to work in the midst of our lives. We are on the journey to You, but our flaws keep us humble, keep us aware of our need for your saving grace. That place of conscious dependency on God is a good place to be.